When you hear the word “exercise,” what do you think?
In fact, some people become anxious and actually cringe at the sound of this word. This is why I prefer to use the term “physical activity” instead.
Simply put, physical activity is anything that gets your body moving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you need to two types of physical activity each week: cardio-aerobic activity and strength training.
For important health benefits, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) every week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. jogging or running) every week.
Remember: these recommendations are per week, so you can spread out your cardio throughout the week! For example, 75 minutes of running every week could simply be 10 minutes of running every day.
In addition to the cardio activity, adults need at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
So, where do you start?
The first question you should ask yourself is “How many days can I reasonably dedicate to working out?” You should select an activity that you enjoy doing and will be able to maintain 6 months after starting. For example, this could be walking, jogging, swimming, or a group class. Your health should be a priority, and you need a minimum of 2-3 days of regular physical activity.
Let’s say it is the beginning of your fitness journey, and you are able to commit to three days of physical activity. This translates into three 50-minute brisk walking sessions per week in addition to muscle-strengthening activities on two of those days. Even better—dedicate a total of five days per week to exercise so you can do strength training on days you do not do cardio!
Make your workout count – quality is better!
Ever walk out of the gym or get off the treadmill thinking “Wow—that was a great workout”? Well, for the remainder of this article, I will discuss a few tips to help give you that feeling every time you work out!
Hydrate your body throughout the day.
Drinking water throughout the day is a must! Hydration is a key factor in being able to push yourself to the limit. Studies have shown that you’ll lose around 10 percent of your strength from being dehydrated. In fact, mild dehydration can also negatively impact your mood, mental acuity, and energy level–even if you don’t feel thirsty! Remember: if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Train at intervals.
When you are doing cardio, try to switch up your pace during sessions. Research shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) burns the most fat. If you are doing a 30-minute cardio session, try running for 30 seconds and walking for 60 seconds. Follow this cycle 20 times, and you’ve just done a full 30 minutes!
Pop in some tunes.
Give yourself an extra jolt of energy in the form of your favorite tunes! Listen to one of your favorite songs while warming up on the treadmill and it will get you in the zone and ready to begin your workout. Play tunes on your personal playlist to give you extra motivation during your activity.
Lighten the weight load.
When many individuals first start going to the gym, they might test themselves against a really heavy weight. But this is a bad idea! You may end up injuring yourself, which will put you out-of-commission from the gym for quite some time.
Rather than adding more weight to the bar, try taking a few pounds off. By lightening the weight, you will be able to focus more on your technique and pay attention to what’s going on in your body.
Squeeze the weight!
Now that you have lightened the weight load, you’ll be able to improve your strength training technique. Aim to feel each muscle contracting as you work through the movement. Squeeze the muscle as much as you can—no matter which muscle group you are working! The more you do this, the stronger you will become.